Murray United ended a tough stretch of three games in a week with a 3-0 loss away to Melbourne Victory on Saturday.
The Border outfit came away empty-handed from the three fixtures, dropping points to Moreland Zebras and Melbourne Victory in the league, as well as being eliminated from the FFA Cup by Northcote City.
After a goalless first half, the floodgates opened for Victory with goals in the 58th, 68th and 80th minute as they ran away with the contest.
Murray coach Elliot Jones admitted playing three times in a week caught up with the playing group.
“It was a tough day for us, we lacked a bit of spark and didn’t have a change of gears when needed,” Jones said.
“I put that down to the heavy workload we’ve had.
“We hung in there as long as we could and they got on top and we fell away.
“It will be good to get back and not have a mid-week game to be able to regroup.
“We’ll take it pretty easy on the track this week, look to rest a few bodies up and bounce back.”
Murray wasn’t helped by the number of key names unavailable against Victory.
Goalkeeper Adbulkerim Koc was handed a three-game ban at the tribunal after his red card in the FFA Cup on Tuesday, while Zac Walker was suspended for two matches for a separate incident in the same fixture and will also be forced to sit out next weekend.
“We’ve got a really honest group of guys and as much as we were flat today, I think it was a combination of playing those extra games and not really having the depth over the last couple of weeks to cover us,” Jones said.
“We’ve had a couple of guys out with injury and have suspensions on top of that, which puts a lot of pressure on the guys that are left.
“Pyesy (Sean Pye) was okay with his hammy and we pushed Lewis (Greenwood) up top with Josh Mulcahy.
“We certainly had a good enough side to get the points today, but we were definitely below our best.
“Everybody was down on output.
“There’s some guys in that side that have played a lot of minutes, so it’s inevitable that you’ll get a flat patch.
“Our energy and effort was tested by a really good side in Melbourne Victory.
“They kept the ball well and moved us around a lot, so as much as we were gallant for a lot of the game, I think in the end they wore us down, we made some mistakes and they capitalised.
“That’s the thing about this league, if you’re down on output, good sides will pick up on that and they’ll get on top.
“I’m sure we’ll bounce back well and I’m confident that we can get back to our best.”
But it wasn’t all bad for Murray, with its under 20s side coming from behind to score a gutsy 2-1 win.
“They were 1-0 down and scored two great goals to win the game,” Jones said.
“As much as it wasn’t the result we wanted for the seniors, it’s really exciting for the under 20s and what they were able to do today.”
Murray returns home next weekend to face Springvale White Eagles, with a win throwing them right back with the mix of the top sides in the league.
The ladder after round 12 is: Moreland City 26, Dandenong City 26, Melbourne City 22, Goulburn Valley Suns 19, Springvale 18, Langwarrin 17, Eastern Lions 16, Murray United 16, Box Hill United 10, Nunawading City 7.